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review 2017-02-13 16:11
The Emperor in Shadow
Yamada Monogatori: The Emperor in Shadow - Richard Parks

[I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley.]

First, please note this is not a standalone novel, contrary to what I thought when I requested it, but part of a series (and very likely the last volume). However, I didn't find it difficult to follow the story and understand the characters: when the narrator alludes to events of the past or people he had previously met, he always adds a couple of sentences, nothing too long, just enough for a reader to understand the context. So this was good with me.

The setting here is that of feudal Japan (the Emperor and his court, bushi, military governors, geisha and courtesans) with a dash of supernatural: ghosts and youkai are common knowledge, and onmyôji and priestesses have actual power. In this world, Yamada and his faithful friend Kenji are confronted to attempted murder and political intrigue, from the Ise temple to the capital and the Emperor's court; I found the mystery decent enough, not too complicated (my guesses about a few things turned out to be right) yet not too easy either for the characters to understand, without convenient deus ex machina bringing the answers (Yamada deducted those).

It took me a couple of weeks to read, but it definitely wasn't boring (that was much more a matter of having lots of things to do and needing to prioritise other books in the meantime). The events made sense, the characters were likeable, and even though it's not my favourite novel ever, it was entertaining and believable.

On the downside, there were instances of Yamada 'hiding' things from the reader, which I don't particularly appreciate in mystery novels, and the female characters, while attaching, didn't have much to do apart from conveniently be here when a specific piece of information was needed, or wait in their palace for the men to do all the work. Granted, the setting itself doesn't lend itself to a lot of female freedom (aristocratic constraints, expectations placed on princesses, and so on), but it didn't help.

Conclusion: Still enjoyable in spite of these flaws.

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review 2017-02-12 19:25
Review: "Overlooked" (Gives Light, #6) by Rose Christo
Overlooked - Rose Christo

"Sky took my hand, opening my mind. I saw what he saw through small brown fox eyes. I saw that every single person had at least one good quality, and you could love that good one or hate the bad ones instead, but the choice was yours."

 

I'm afraid that this was the weakest book in the series for me. While I am still torn about the sudden paranormal shift which has been introduced out of the blue in the previous book, Rafael's psychic abilities approached absurd territory here and became more than a little ridiculous. I mean, am I really supposed to believe that he and his sister Mary can agree to meet up in their dreams where they can have full-on conversations?

 

 

What was even weirder was Mary's sudden urge to take out a blood law on Skylar's father (no spoiler, it's in the blurb). Where was that storyline in Looks Over? What makes this so bizarre was that Skylar wasn't kept in the dark about Mary's plans, but he fully knew about them. And yet this has never been mentioned in the second book WHEN WE WERE IN HIS HEAD.

 

 

All in all, I still liked the writing and the characters well enough to give this book 4 stars. Because I still love Rafael and Skylar and all of their family and friends. But the story hasn't really worked for me in the last two books. I'm worried about where this series is going, and I'm wondering if it's really for the best to retell the whole series through Rafael's POV when it changes the initial tone of the first books that much.

 

 
Oh, and BTW this made me LOL:

"I was seventeen years old.  I thought about sex every five seconds."

~ Rafael, mentioning sex for the very first time EVER in 6 books. And also for the last time. ~

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review 2017-02-11 19:54
Review: "Lending Light" (Gives Light, #5) by Rose Christo
Lending Light - Rose Christo

"I'd lived my whole life in the dark until I met the boy who blanketed the earth in his name."

 

This is the fifth book in the Gives Light series and a re-telling of the first one, only this time from Rafael's POV.

 

Now if you've been following my reviews, you already know that I've been DYING to read Rafael's story and to finally see Skylar through his eyes. And I wasn't disappointed. (Ok, maybe a little bit, but more about that later.)

 

It was so wonderful to see how Rafael's self-loathing at the beginning changed at the very moment that Skylar stepped into his life. How Rafael's view of the world, a world that for him only consisted of darkness, gloom and misery, turned bright and colorful, step by step, thanks to Skylar and his "light". Rafael's journey of self-acceptance, and his will to become a better person because he desperately wanted to be a better person, a person who's worth of Skylar's friendship and love, was just as wonderful as I hoped it would be and more.

 

 

And while this book covers the same storyline as the first one in the series, there are more than enough differences to keep this from just being a re-narration. Nothing here felt repetitive or redundant; it was a whole new story with a completely different feel to it.

 

HOWEVER (I always seem to have an "however" issue with this series), even after I finished the book, I'm still conflicted on how to feel about the inclusion of the paranormal element that was introduced here all of a sudden and out of the blue.

 

 

While I was reading the first 4 books, I just LOVED the idea that Rafael was able to understand and communicate with Skylar only by paying attention to his body language and his facial expressions. But now in this 5th book, the story unexpectedly shifts to supernatural territory. It turns out that Rafael actually CAN see people’s auras and literally feel their feelings just by touching them. He hears Skylar's thoughts clearly in his mind and the two of them actually have these full-on conversations, even without looking at each other. It was like Rafael suddenly became some sort of mind reader or something.

 

 

I have to be honest, Rafael's sudden psychic ability threw me off. And as strange as it sounds, but the inclusion of "magic" actually made the romance anticlimactically less magical for me. I still don't know if this series benefited from this paranormal component or not; but as for myself, I would have preferred to keep this universe realistic, without any paranormal or mystical component to it. I never really got over that shift during the course of the whole book.

 

 

But Rose Christo's prose was just as beautiful as always, and even though I always seem to find fault with every book in this series that prevents me from giving them a full 5 star-rating, I think a constant 4.5 star-rating is nothing to sneeze at.

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review 2017-01-23 12:38
Wych Elm House...
Lost Among the Living - Simone St. James,Justine Eyre,Inc. Blackstone Audio

Another great story by St. James! I would say this is my second favorite book of hers; the first being The Haunting of Maddy Clare. I listened to the audio of this and it was wonderful. She really knows how to evoke an eerie atmosphere. Her descriptions of Franny and Princer's 'appearances' were just chilling. I was starting to think they were real myself. : )

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review 2017-01-23 12:07
Expedition to Kangchenjunga...
Thin Air - Michelle Paver

I love stories about climbing expeditions so I try to read as many as I can. This one focuses more on the ghost story aspect versus a lot of climbing details which is still great but if you are looking for a more technical perspective then you probably want to read a true account instead of this.

 

With that said, I enjoyed this story immensely but when it's all said and done, it didn't 'wow' me like I was hoping for. It had all of the ingredients of a good ghost story but I just didn't get that eerie, creepy feeling that I felt like it should have evoked, which is why I only gave it 4 stars instead of 5.

 

 

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